Another day at the Temple of Universal Rapture. Another day of meditation and self-flagellation. Another day of collecting and distributing alms to the families of our fallen warriors. Another day of forcing confessions from captured rebels. Another day of thanking the Almighty for the trials and punishments meted out to us. Another day of praying for the Great Egg to hatch and unleash a dreadful holy serpent that will devour all life in the universe.
Except that today is busier than most. Today, His Holiness The Great Listener is emerging from his isolation chamber to make a speech, and the entire city is determined to hear the words live, straight from the Almighty via His Majesty’s mouth, and via our top-of-the-line multimedia system.
Faith has never been so important to our people as it has been in recent years. Ever since the Hargor unleashed their terrible new weapon, more citizens have been coming to the temple than ever before. They come seeking solace and communion, both with eachother and with the almighty. They come to report the sins of their neighbours, fearing them to be rebels and atheists and Hargor sympathisers. They come to pray for their conscripted loved ones and wish them a swift and glorious death in battle, and they come to enjoy our beautiful gardens and tea rooms.
Most of all, they come with questions. They come to ask the advice of one of my order, to pick our brains and share in our wisdom, and to have their faith bolstered by our own.
Providing them with what they want is surprisingly easy, even though I have no faith or answers of my own. They’ll take any old nonsense from the mouth of a monk and assume it has some great significance they are too stupid to understand.
Yes, you heard me correctly, I have no faith.
It’s not something I would ever dare to admit publicly, of course, but here in the sound-proofed isolation chamber I feel safe to voice my thoughts freely. Here, nobody can hear me but you and the Almighty himself, and that’s OK because He doesn’t exist. Neither does the Great Egg, or the planet-eating serpent, or the His Holiness’s supposed powers of divination. It’s all a load of ogsnobocks, and I’ve always known it to be so.
Even as a child I saw through the lies, and my school preistmaster took great pleasure in beating me with his sceptre until I professed otherwise.
How did that defiant little atheist boy come to devote his life to religious service? Well now, that’s an interesting story…
How would you continue this story?
As always, let us know your thoughts and divinations in the comments below.
Written by Mark Ball.
Artwork by Isra Carrion.